Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman, on Senate Floor, Praises Delaware for Leading the Way on Green Jobs

October 30, 2009

Remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, my home state of Delaware has been the recipient of some good news this week and so I thought this would be a good time to come to the floor and discuss how Delaware is leading the way in responding to the challenge of climate change and creating green jobs.

This is a critical time in our history.  At stake are the jobs and economic future of our children and grandchildren.  Unfortunately, as we emerge from this economic crisis, many of the jobs we have lost will not return.  To make a full recovery, we need to create the next generation of jobs.  I believe that the jobs leading the way will be the clean and green energy industries of tomorrow.

I am proud to say, Mr. President, that my home state of Delaware is already leading the way. 

Like many states, my state once had a proud record of automobile manufacturing.  All of my colleagues know, though, that the recent economic downturn has hit already downtrodden auto companies especially hard, and, in recent months, our two auto plants were closed.

This is not simply a question of economics.  

For the families who saw paychecks end and the dignity of work disappear, these closures were a real personal tragedy. 

The men and women who worked in our auto plants are some of the most dedicated, capable workers I have ever met.  They embraced an American dream – the chance to work hard at a decent job and provide for a family.  And then, in the midst of an economic crisis not seen in decades, they found themselves looking to start over.

They did their job, Mr. President.  They held up their side of the bargain.  They went to work everyday and worked hard at their job – and in the process made our GM plant and our Chrysler plant two of the most productive and efficient plants around.

That is why we from Delaware have been fighting to help them land on their feet.  We know the potential of these trained, hard-working, eager employees and we know the decency of these families.

Just recently I was able to join Vice President Biden, Delaware Governor Markell, and our Congressional Delegation in announcing that Fisker Automotive will begin building plug-in hybrids at the old General Motors Boxwood Road plant. 

In a few years time, we expect that Fisker will be building cars that get more than 100 miles per gallon – and building as many as 100,000 of them per year.  This will mean nearly 1,500 permanent manufacturing jobs. 

Before we get there, there will be hundreds or thousands of good construction jobs created by revamping and renovating the plant to produce these state-of-the-art vehicles.

But this happy tale, Mr. President, is not possible without crucial support.  Fisker was awarded a loan by the Department of Energy, part of a program designed to jump start the production of advanced vehicles. 

At the same time, Governor Jack Markell has worked hard to keep the plant in condition to be retooled, and to convince Fisker that Delaware offers the ideal market to begin building tomorrow’s cars.

And I believe the clincher, Mr. President, was the highly trained workforce we had to offer.

In fact, Fisker will be hiring many of the GM employees to work back in their old building – to work at building a state of the art advanced car.

At the same time, the University of Delaware has announced a plan to buy the old Chrylser Newark plant and convert it to an advanced research facility.  These 272 acres adjacent to the campus are truly, as University of Delaware President Patrick Harker has said, a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

And the University has indicated that much of this research and development to be carried out there will be towards the energy technologies we will need to combat climate change and to compete in tomorrow’s economy.

In fact, the University is already a leader in many of these fields.  It is a recognized Center of Excellence for solar power research and education, as designated by the Department of Energy, and a Center of Excellence for composite materials as well. 

Just this week, the University was awarded nearly $4.5 million for research into magnetic materials from a new program called ARPA-E. 

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has a mission, and I quote, “to develop nimble, creative, and inventive approaches to transform the global energy landscape while advancing America’s technology leadership.” 

The research the University of Delaware is doing could greatly increase the efficiency of electric motors – for electric and hybrid vehicles and for wind turbines alike.  At the same time, it could drastically reduce our imports of rare earth minerals that often come from the darkest corners of our world.

At the same time, DuPont was winning $9 million from ARPA-E for its research into seaweed-based biobutanol. 

What is biobutanol?, my colleagues may ask.  The answer is that biobutanol is an advanced fuel designed for use in place of gasoline. 

We have heard a lot about ethanol and how it can transform our energy landscape and it will play a very significant role – and already does. 

But it is not flawless.  It tends to be corrosive, meaning that we cannot use our existing pipeline infrastructure and that we must retrofit our vehicles. 

At the same time, it has a lower energy density than gasoline – in other words, fewer miles per gallon.

Biobutanol may very well have fixed those problems.  It has nearly the energy density of gasoline and is much less corrosive than ethanol.

And now, thanks to research from DuPont and others, we are learning how to make it from seaweed.

Imagine a scalable source of biomass – solar-powered, low-carbon bioenergy – that does not take up existing arable land or demand potable water.

Imagine a fuel built from that source that operates like conventional gasoline.

Wouldn’t that be a big step forward for addressing our climate challenges and for ensuring that tomorrow’s vehicles will be powered by American ideas?

And DuPont is leading in several other fields, Mr. President.  It is an innovator in thin-film solar panels, cellulosic ethanol, and fuel cells.

Across town, W.L. Gore, whom we all know for the miracle fabric Gore-Tex, is a market leader in the membranes essential for fuel cells. 

If we hope to move someday to a hydrogen vehicle, and I do, we will need their expertise and excellence.

Perhaps the most significant renewable energy project underway in Delaware, however, is actually happening just outside of Delaware.  It is happening in our ocean.

A company called Bluewater Wind is leading the way in developing offshore wind power in the United States. 

In countries like Denmark and the United Kingdom, they have already recognized that the abundant ocean breezes provide a vast, constant, renewable source of electricity.  It is time for us to catch up.

In fact, the Delaware Offshore Wind Park will be larger than all offshore wind farms currently in existence, although other large farms are being planned and built in other countries.

What it will be is America’s first.

In fact, Delaware yesterday hosted the nation’s first federal offshore renewable energy task force meeting.

When the Department of Energy has concluded that offshore wind can meet 70 percent of all domestic electricity needs, how can we afford to ignore this resource?

And when nations around the world have wind, waves, and electricity demand, shouldn’t we try to claim the leadership position in this technology?

That is why I am glad that the federal government, by providing the right incentives for wind power, and the state of Delaware, by working with Bluewater to ensure that there will be demand for that power, have convinced Bluewater Wind that Delaware is the place to start.

Mr. President, I could name hundreds of other areas where Delaware and Delawareans are leading the way in creating tomorrow’s jobs. 

We are installing combined heat and power projects to increase the efficiency of a chemical factory and of a community college.  Our Port is aiming to revamp its infrastructure to take advantage of green technologies that will make it cleaner and cheaper to operate.

We have set up an innovative new financing mechanism, the Sustainable Energy Utility, that will help get clean technologies through the so-called “valley of death.”  Even our schools are getting in on the act, installing solar panels on gymnasium rooftops.

We have small start up companies that are leading the way on a whole host of technologies, from less toxic disinfectants to safety reflectors, windmills and biofuels to recycling old carpet.

Companies like ILC Dover, that manufacture components of space suits, are leading the way in developing advanced materials, while CMI Electric, a solar panel seller and installer, has a banner on its website that says “WE ARE HIRING - APPLY HERE.”

We need more of those five words, Mr. President.

So, I would like to congratulate the leaders of my state, in industry and government, in academia and in private life, for recognizing that the future of our economy, and thus the legacy we leave future generations, depends on leading the way on green technologies and in green industries.

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